HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Comics Today's Date:

Say Amen, Fanboys...

Regardless of whether or not you consider it literal truth, the Bible has more than just good stories in it. It's got tales that form the backbone of much of Western literature. So it should come as no surprise that comics creators occasionally dip into the well of the Old Testament for inspiration.

No pun intended.

And inspiration usually means borrowing themes and vague allusions to existing stories. After all, it is written in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that "…there is no new thing under the sun."

In the mid seventies, DC tried to launch an adaptation of the Bible, covering Genesis in one volume of their DC Super Special, with art by Joe Kubert. Notice there wasn't a second one.

Mostly, the phrase Bible comics tends to have the connotation of being for children. Or worse, it brings to mind those strangely off-putting books you found in the inspirational section of your grocery store - and those you only looked at twice because sometimes Archie was in them. (And those Archie ones, by the way, were actually okay.)

What is surprising in the last year is that two major books have come out that are both unabashedly Bible adaptations (nope, not even a whiff of allegory) without carrying the stigma of being "good for you" before being entertaining.

Though they have different approaches, reflecting, of course, different creators, both stand as solid books. According to Kyle Baker, one begat the other, but he would also be the first to admit that Samson: Judge of Israel is no pale shadow of Baker's own work on King David. They're two different approaches to the same source, as befits two creators bringing their own passions and interests to ancient tales.

As you might expect from Baker, King David has a light irreverence to it, though it never gets in the way of the drama inherent to the story. Drawn almost as if a storyboard, the art has an animated feel to it. (Appropriate, since Baker has spent the past year or so working on Looney Toons.) Lushly colored, too, each panel could almost be a still from a King David film.

Yet it doesn't feel still. The characters are fully realized, fully emotional beings, and Baker's mastery of the form shows in depicting David from child to older adult. Somehow, he manages to make David's eyes consistent, and so we can see the child in the man without making the man look childish.

With a clear storytelling style, too, we can believe that a boy's faith in God will allow him to slay a giant. (There's a little more to it than that, but you know how the story goes.) That faith easily slips into adult arrogance, and tragedy builds.

However, Baker also includes moments of comic relief, remembering what few storytellers seem to be able to, that it should only be moments. A lot of it is accomplished by simply salting the dialogue with idioms that would fit just as easily in a summer resort in the Catskills as ancient Israel.

Always, it's done tastefully and with respect for his readers' intelligence. The unsavory aspects of David's story are here; Baker is not interested in the bowdlerization you might get from Sunday School, or for that matter, movie adaptations. But he's also not interested in appealing to more prurient tastes. Everything serves the story.

Which, by the way, Baker stops halfway through. So you'll have to pick up the book without the pictures and find out what happens next. But go ahead and say it; it won't be nearly as much fun that way.

Allegedly, artist Mario Ruiz caught wind of Baker's plans to do King David, and realized that the market might be ripe for further exploration of the Bible in graphic form. He approached the American Bible Society, publishers of …please try to keep up …and convinced them to form a comics publishing imprint, Metron Press.

Their first foray, Samson: Judge of Israel, takes an approach that falls in line with trends in both American comics and American Biblical scholarship. (So sue me - I'm pretentious and prefer the King James text.)

The hero Samson is treated as such - almost a modern hero. Much of Samson's story needed to be fleshed out to fill 48 pages, and Ruiz and his scripting partner Jerry A. Novick add a little more conflict than is in the original text. But it fits. Like David, Samson is far from a perfect man. In fact, both characters suffer from terrible hubris. Yes, that's why the Greeks had a word for it.

Ruiz' penciling is robust, and would not look out of place handling a spandex clad superhero at all. His interpretation of The Word, though clearly a different ethnicity, looks suspiciously like The Spectre. But you know, Vertigo ripped that character off themselves when The Word appeared in Swamp Thing, so it's clearly a design that just fits.

Unlike Baker, Ruiz and Novick jump around a bit in their story, showing us Samson's fate upfront - almost. Knowing what is to come lends weight to the blithe actions of the young hero who just doesn't appreciate how truly blessed he is until it's too late.

Of the two books, Samson: Judge of Israel is a little less challenging. Where Baker leaves a lot between the lines (even if it's obvious stuff), Ruiz and Novick tend to caption everything, making sure that no nuance is missed.

For some, that will make it the weaker of the two books, but it also makes it one probably better suited for younger readers. By including the actual scripture in the back of the book, it's also clear that Samson does have religious instruction on its mind, even if it hides it better than might be expected.

In both books, the artists have taken a multicultural approach. Or rather, they've made the characters look historically accurate.

You won't find anyone looking like Richard Gere or Victor Mature in these pages, which to my thinking means you really should get your kids reading them if only for that.

Baker expresses regret that he didn't have time to take part in Metron Press' next project, a book called Testament. From the little preview material available, it looks to definitely raise Metron Press' profile in the comic book world.

Written by Jim Krueger (Earth X, Challengers of the Unknown, and Foot Soldiers), Testament somehow frames a variety of Old Testament tales in a bar called J.J.'s. Obviously, this is not, by Ruiz' admission, a Sunday School primer.

However, it is illustrated by some diverse top names, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Phil Hester, Steve Rude, and even Sergio Aragones. Be careful; you might get sucked in and learn something.

According to Metron Press' plans, Testament will be available in September. If they fail to make that date, please remember that to everything there is a season under heaven.

Derek McCaw

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites